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Public Health Rep. 1993 Mar-Apr; 108(2): 212–217.
PMCID: PMC1403363

Bicycle helmet use by adults: the impact of companionship.


Most of the nearly 1,000 fatal bicycle-related injuries annually could be prevented if riders used safety helmets. Helmet use by adult bicyclists has received relatively little attention because educational campaigns to promote helmet use generally focus on children. Helmet use by adult and child bicyclists at 120 suburban and rural sites in three Maryland counties was observed on two Saturdays in 1990-91 during an evaluation of the impact of a mandatory helmet law. Concordance or discordance of helmet use within various groups of bicyclists--adults only, adults with children, and children only--was recorded. Helmet use among 2,068 adult bicyclists was 49 percent, 51 percent, and 74 percent in the three counties. In two counties combined, 52 percent (365 of 706) of solo adult bicyclists wore helmets compared with only 5 percent (5 of 94) of solo child bicyclists (P < .001). Helmet use or nonuse was concordant among 87 percent of 277 adult-adult pairs, 94 percent of 50 child-child pairs, and 91 percent of 32 adult-child pairs of bicyclists observed. Concordance rates of helmet use or nonuse were similarly high among pairs of adult bicyclists of the same or mixed sexes. These data are consistent with the concept that both adults and children tend to adopt the helmet-wearing behaviors of their companions. Public health efforts focused on adults should encourage helmet use by adult bicyclists both to prevent head injuries and to provide a role model for children.

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Selected References

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